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West Philadelphia Block Captain Forum this Saturday

August 2, 2012

At the West Philadelphia Block Captains Forum this Saturday, block captains will network, learn new skills, and improve their leadership abilities. Experts from city agencies and neighborhood groups will staff panels at the workshops. Seth Williams, Philadelphia’s District Attorney, will deliver the forum’s keynote address, and will serve on a panel discussing crime and safety.

Participants can attend free workshops on a variety of topics, including: computer and internet training; zoning and city planning; crime and safety; and community organizing. The forum is organized by The Partnership CDC/NAC, Philadelphia LISC, and SCI-West.

Gloria Lighty, a block captain for more than 15 years, said she is most excited about learning more effective community organizing skills. She struggles to keep her block’s younger residents engaged around community issues. Several months ago, Lighty saw a resident on her block throw a mousetrap—containing a captured mouse—into the street from a porch, and she knew then that something needed to change.  “We need to put the word ‘neighbor’ back into the ’hood,” she said.

Lighty grew up on the block in the 1970s and recalls a neighborly spirit: “When it snowed, the young people would shovel the whole block, and the old people would sit on their porches and bring out hot chocolate,” Lighty reminisces. Now, recruiting participants for neighborhood meetings and clean-ups is a challenge. She wants to see the block become a cleaner, more neighborly place.

Lighty hopes that through the West Philadelphia Block Captains Forum, she can develop new skills and learn strategies for engaging the block’s younger residents. “I’m hoping to learn how to communicate better with the new generation of people moving in,” she said, “I want to do my job more effectively.”

Leon Robinson, NAC Assistant at The Partnership CDC, is organizing the event, and feels that the block captains have much to gain from simply meeting each other. “This is a good opportunity for them to start sharing information,” he said, “They can start communicating what works for them from block to block, from neighborhood to neighborhood.”

“We would love to see block captains adopting new outreach strategies and developing skills with new communications tools like social media,” said Jamie Gauthier, the Program Officer at Philadelphia LISC who oversees the Sustainable Communities Initiative in West Philadelphia (SCI-West), “This will allow them to bring resources, tools, and information from the City of Philadelphia and other neighborhood groups back to their blocks.”

Robinson and Gauthier envision that the West Philadelphia Block Captain Forum could become a recurring event or series. “We could have year-round workshops on different topics,” said Robinson.

The Block Captains Forum will take place at Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia at 5501 Cedar Avenue, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 4. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Registered block captains from 19139, 19104 and 19143 are encouraged to register for the forum by calling Leon Robinson at The Partnership CDC at (215) 662-1612, by emailing him at lrobinson@thepartnershipcdc.org, or by stopping by the office at 4020 Market Street.

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